Dec 15, 2010

Thoughts From My Day

I never knew I could be SO cold in Haiti. Shivered the night and morning away - it was a good feeling.

"I want you" is not a good pick up line, random-man-in-the-airport. In fact, your lack of respect for me and women in general makes me so angry so please take my rude responses offensively and leave me alone.

This poor kid in the seat next to me is shivering on the plane and has no coat. Wish I had one to offer him.

Florida will always be tainted for me because my only experiences in the state revolve around customs.

The American Airlines lady in Fort Lauderdale renews my hope in kindness. I bet she has kids. [She rebooked my seat several times to get me the best seats possible on my new flights to Denver - and was genuinely interested in the people around her.]

Did they announce anything in Haiti?

I wish I was getting to Colorado a little earlier.

Remember that cardigan in the closet? I can't wait to wear it.

Obesity. I sort of forgot it existed.

These french fries taste so good.

I miss Haitian coffee.

Things are changing around me, and I can't seem to keep up. I wish things would slow down.

Will I be able to put in an IV in a month?

Who is going to staff the cholera clinics on Christmas day?

Dear Lord, please heal Pierre.

I hope it doesn't snow too much tonight so I can see a dentist tomorrow.

I love wearing jeans.

Will I remember Creole when I get back?

Birth certificate, check. Passport, nope. Letters, nope. Paperwork, nope. Money, nope. That means no medical visa - when will Alix get to the States?

I feel...weary.

I feel...guilty.

It's so fun to track people's planes!

Florida has a pretty orange sky for a sunset tonight.

Ache.

Nov 29, 2010

little lion man

Kari, Myself, and Pierre

Our little man Pierre, just a few weeks ago. He is stronger and has beaten every odd and obstacle put in front of him. He is a mighty little man. But he's sick, and without any definite diagnosis, we are not sure when he can be released from the hospital. We rushed him there Saturday and have not gotten many answers since.

Pray for Pierre that we may best care for him in this time.

Nov 20, 2010

a lot of pain and a little joy

Sometimes I spend my nights reading about Haiti. I read news articles and blogs from people on the ground. Sometimes I see such a small picture - I don't know what all is happening. And I need the reminders that other people see and agonize over the same things and in the same way as we do here. One of the blogs I read is written by another nurse working for a different hospital. Jessica wrote a few weeks ago about a conversation with a Haitian doctor who put the way of life here for the majority of Haitians into words so well:

"For them everything is a fight. It's a fight for food, a fight to get on the tap-tap going in the right direction. A fight to sell every piece of fruit and every soda. It's a fight to survive . . . She said they get so used to fighting everyday that their entire life a
nd attitude becomes just like that, a battle."

Put yourself in that place for a moment. You have a broken cooler full of pop bottles in a market packed with people selling the same things, but all united under the same idea - I must sell all of this so my family can eat tonight. Or maybe so I can take my child who has had a fever for 8 days to the doctor. Or maybe so I can buy purified water to drink so my family isn't forced to drink from the canals of water filled with trash and waste.

This is the way of life here. This is the way of life in the majority of the world.

Add onto that tent cities, flooding, cholera, political unrest and riots, cholera, skyrocketing food prices, cholera, lack of education, cholera.

Of course it is survival mode here. People are too busy trying to keep their heads above water to try and plan for rebuilding or moving forward.

I spent Thursday of this last week in a cholera treatment center a few minutes north of Mission of Hope. I took our medical team as it was a Haitian holiday and our clinic was closed. We pulled up to tents and the smell of bleach and human waste. The center was so well run but overrun. The staff there thanked me over and over for bringing the few people I could to help, saying for the first time in 10 days they have felt like they had almost enough people to treat all 180-200 patients they see a day.

I had eight patients I oversaw with the off and on help of a Haitian nurse. It's a delicate guessing game of "How much fluid does this person need?" How sunken are their eyes? How many times in the last hour have they sat up and vomited or had diarrhea? One little girl had an IO and an NG to try and replace fluid. I was put in that tent so I would ensure that every 10 minutes I put 20 mL of ORS into her NG. Between those ten minutes it was replacing IV bags, encouraging every patient to drink ORS every ten minutes, washing hands, documenting, and then it was time to repeat.

My small victory of the day was seeing the girl sit up. We pulled her IO and her NG, put in an IV, and got her taking ORS orally. But she was still vomiting and having diarrhea - she was not in the clear yet.

Each person in that camp was fighting. The patients were fighting to physically survive. The workers were fighting to get through another day, to keep everyone alive. The news articles that cover the story cannot accurately put that into words. You cannot understand cholera until you see its victims.

And in the midst of this, the everyday still occurs. Babies are still being born. People are still diagnosed with TB. People are still malnourished. Accidents happen. Health care is now being stretched thinner and thinner throughout Haiti. And this week I have seen it, and I can see the storm clouds growing darker and darker. With more cholera means less hospital care. With more Port-au-Prince cases comes less room for the everyday cases to go.

But beauty has not perished here. Wounds are still healing, or at least improving. A 30 minute session with a mom and newborn baby teaching breastfeeding has seen the cessation of the baby's seizures and the growth of his little belly. And perhaps the most encouraging thing of all:

CLERMOND IS WALKING!

What joy that sight brings. I only wish that joy could be infectious too.

Oct 31, 2010

Lespwa

Some friends of mine have formed an organization called Lespwa Means Hope - and I now blog for them as well! Be sure to follow what they are doing alongside Mission of Hope, follow them on their tour if you live in a city they are visiting, and go read the blogs!

www.lespwameanshope.org

I have blogged about cholera there - it's been an insane week and I hope to update here soon.


Oct 21, 2010

a song for every one of us

Growing up in church, we were taught that Jesus was the answer to all our problems. We were taught that there was a circle-shaped hole in our heart and that we had tried to fill it with the square pegs of sex, drugs, and rock and roll; but only the circle peg of Jesus could fill our hole. I became a Christian based, in part, on that promise, but the hole never really went away. To be sure, I like Jesus, and I still follow him, but the idea that Jesus will make everything better is a lie. It's basically biblical theology translated into the language of infomercials. The truth is, the apostles never really promise Jesus is going to make everything better here on earth. Can you imagine an infomercial with Paul, testifying to the amazing product of Jesus, saying that he once had power and authority, and since he tried Jesus he's been moved from prison to prison, beaten, and routinely bitten by snakes? I don't think many people would be buying that product. Peter couldn't do any better. He was crucified upside down, by some reports. Stephen was stoned outside the city gates. John, supposedly, was boiled in oil. It's hard to imagine how a religion steeped in so much pain and sacrifice turned into a promise for earthly euphoria. I think Jesus can make things better, but I don't think he is going to make things perfect. Not here, and not now.

I find myself caught in the idea of our stories. We all tell stories with our lives, and along the way we intersect with other stories that will forever stick with us. Most recently, in living in Haiti, I am intersecting with entirely different sorts of stories. They are wrenching and beautiful and painful and altogether astounding. They have faces: a dying 17 year old boy, the man with the feet, the baby with seizures. They have names: Clermond, Pierre, Alexandre, and now - Alix.

About 15 minutes from Mission of Hope you can find a boy named Alix. He is 14 years old, and six months ago he fell on his chin and fractured his jaw upward. Since that day he has been unable to open his mouth. Living in extreme pain, he has eaten through a straw every day for six months and speaks words through clenched teeth.

Once again, the same problems. Not enough resources, not enough access, not enough education. And once again, I find myself asking the same question: "Why God do these things keep happening?"

And that is essentially all God says to Job. God doesn't explain pain philosophically or even list its benefits. God says to Job, Job, I know what I am doing, and this whole thing isn't about you.

Alix saw a dentist in our clinic who was so broken over his case that he went home, asked an oral surgeon friend to help, and set up a surgical team to return to Haiti in order to take care of Alix's case, as well as other maxillofacial surgeries. The dentist and his dentist wife (power couple!) covered all of the costs and after many weeks, I sent Alix and his mother with the money to buy bus tickets for the 5 hours journey to the hospital. I could not help but celebrate - Alix was finally getting proper care.

I received an e-mail from my contact at the other hospital tonight - Alix's surgery is too risky. They will be unable to preform the operation. He needs to go to the States in order to have the appropriate treatment done.

I found myself surprisingly more upset than I would have expected. I think of Alix and his mother, so thankful for the idea that the end of this trauma was in sight. I think of the delays, of getting passports, of the letters that need to be written, of the longer wait. I think of the disappointment.

What I love about the true gospel of Jesus, though, is that it offers hope. Paul has hope our souls will be made complete. It will happen in heaven, when there will be a wedding and a feast. I wonder if that's why so many happy stories end in weddings and feasts. Paul says Jesus is the hope that will not disappoint. I find that comforting. That helps me get through the day, to be honest. It even makes me content somehow. Maybe that's what Paul meant when he said he'd learned the secret of contentment.

I say it often, but I have to remember that the story does not end here. The mouth of injustice may be gaping, but it will not remain that way. This too shall pass, and this too shall be made right.

The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than if we'd showed up at the ending an easier way. It made me think about the hard lives so many people have had, the sacrifices they've endured, and how those people will see heaven differently from those of us who have had easier lives.

Amen.

All above italicized excerpts were taken from Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

Oct 15, 2010

show me a place where hope is young

There are some days here where I find myself wondering how on earth I got myself into this position. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have me anywhere else. I love what I get to be a part of here. I love the cast of characters I work with and live among.

Today I had a knock on my door and there was a Red Cross representative. She has come often to get supplies the hospital she works for needs. We chatted pleasantries as I walked her up to our supply tent. She informed me she would be leaving next week for good, moving on to a Red Cross hospital in Pakistan.

I asked what supplies she needed.

Gloves. Syringes. Needles. Sheets. Basics.

My mind went back to Price Chopper in Kansas City. Every check out line with Donate to Red Cross opportunities - money being given by people left and right. Millions and millions donated to them. Like everyone else is asking now, where did all the money go?

They have supplies. In containers. In port. In customs. Unreleased. Why? Who knows? The reason could change every day. Now they are hoping to bring supplies through the DR but that will take weeks.

A multitude of problems.

That also doesn't stop me from asking where all the corruption is - is the Red Cross money being put to good use? Is it being used to finance salaries of US side jobs? And if so - is that taking away from basic supplies for medical care?

So I found myself helping her load boxes of gloves into the back of her truck. We dug through to find needles and syringes and sterile gloves size 7&1/2. We talked about how everyone needs supplies and the need in Pakistan and in Haiti. I bid her farewell, wished her luck as she left.

For the problems being as large as they are, this place is a very personal one. Anytime I meet another medical worker in Haiti, we swap numbers and e-mails, say what resources we have, and try and connect people with each other. Survival here is in many ways all about who you know.

So today I put in a call to ask a favor. It involves a helicopter. Flying hours north of us. To get a 14 year old who has been unable to eat for 6 months surgery. I promise to keep you posted on what happens.

And these past few days I am being constantly reminded of this:

Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with your might.
Ecclesiastes 9:10

Whether it's digging literal needles out of a metaphorical haystack or flying a young man to a once-in-a-lifetime surgery, do it with your might.

Sep 24, 2010

Fievel in Haiti

When I was growing up my parents kindly allowed my sister and I to raise all sorts of animals. We tried gerbils, hamsters, bunnies, puppies, kittehs!!1!, and Becca even had a guinea pig. Annie had some fish once. I always wanted a horse, but we settled with letting my have horseback riding time every Saturday with Nikki Steidl. That is, until the horse died. And then all my dreams were shattered.

Moving on.

Needless to say, I like animals. In general I don't like to kill things, unless they are spiders or cockroaches. All other animals may live. Especially the cat-sized rats from the depot. Those I don't even attempt to kill.

So a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon the little mouse who had taken up residence in our house, I didn't mind. He kept to his corner and scuttled away if he came anywhere close to me. When Diana came home and moved back in, we started to notice him more. Then we started to notice his...problems.

He moved sluggishly. His fur stood out at odd angles. He looked rather malnourished. I am guessing Mother Mouse never really loved him. We keep our food locked up tightly, so he probably starved much of the time he was here.

One week he made appearances more often and was getting bolder. It was probably the hunger that sent him to madness. He would run under our feet like a crazed lunatic. He would hide under our couch and chair. He would not move when we tried to shoo him away - he stood mighty as an oak...a mangy, matted oak.

Diana wanted to pound him with a flip flop. I told her no, that we just needed to get him to run out the door and close him out. So one night I grabbed a broom and Diana grabbed a tiny tupperware bowl and we set out to capture him. He would run one way and I would try to corral him out of the corners into the bowl. We got him right to the front door, and in a moment of attempting "DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!", I hockey pucked him into the door.

I have horrid aim, he flew into the doorframe, and scuttled back underneath the fridge. He escaped for that night.

A few nights later, the show down began again. This time we were much more prepared, and I was much calmer, much more focused. I got the mouse to the door and gently guided him out the front door. Success! We helped him down the stairs away from our apartment, where we were promptly greeted by two young boys who live on the mission.

They were very interested in our mouse and set about trying to capture it. I was thankful the mouse was gone, instructed the boys to leave the poor guy alone as he has surely been traumatized, and went back inside. I felt proud of the fact that I had saved the mouse's life and that he may be able to make it in the wild.

That was promptly ruined by the entrance of one of the boys.

"Diana, you don't need to worry. The mouse is far away."

"Oh that's good, where is it?"

"It's up in the sky."

"What?!"

"It's dead?"

"You KILLED it?"

"NO. We were trying to save it, but I accidentally kicked it."

I gathered it had a seizure at that point and died. So much for trying to save it's little life. Probably for the best though, the cats would likely have found him.

That or the depot rats. Those things are monsters.

Sep 12, 2010

every breath brings a chance for redemption

The sight that exposes our sin is the exact same sight that reveals God's grace.

Taken from Kevin Cawley's words from Martin Luther in June 2010, heard today in Haiti.

The last week has been full of reminders of grace. Thank you all for your messages and e-mails and notes about Clermond and Pierre. The amount of response to the last post was overwhelming.

Clermond is doing as well as one could hope. His surgery went very well, and his leg looks wonderful. The people at Adventist did an excellent job. We will continue to follow him for wound care and therapy and explore the possibility of getting him to the States for continuing oncology care.

Pierre - oh Pierre. How I love this little boy. If there is a lesson of grace and hope in this world, I see it so clearly in him. He has been moved into the Hope House for the time being. We do not know where he will be taken or if he will stay with us for good. All we know is that each day he grows healthier and stronger. He has begun to hold his head on his own for short stints and is smiling and laughing more and more.

To think that out of such a broken moment, left under a bench with pneumonia, in one week we would see such a turn around. It is a testament of grace. In those moments of pain and suffering and despair, we can see God's grace in the possibility for something other.

In the last week I have laughed and smiled and felt more joy than I can remember. I know part of it was our incredible medical team this last week. Now none of you go getting a big head - I know you are reading this to see if I actually would blog about you. There you go - you guys are awesome and now the whole blog-dom of Sarah knows it. Peace an' Blessings.

And while those five people would be enough to make a week great, when you have encounters with Hope, when you have an invitation into those moments to DO something, and then you do it, and then you see the glory of the Lord - those are the moments that provide such a sheer amount of joy.

For the first time in three months, I have seen and heard the invitation. We are invited to step into the brokenness and the muck and the pain. We are invited to mourn alongside and to help move forward. We are invited to experience God's grace in our own lives and then speak it out.

We are never meant to pretend that pain isn't there. We should never ignore the hard questions because their answers scare us. We never have to fear what happens if we don't have all the answers, because we never will.

I think as I have begun to realize this, I have found freedom.

The moment of Despair is the moment of Hope.
- Tim Chester

Sep 3, 2010

Clermond & Pierre

What does the face of injustice look like? What does it look like when injustice manifests itself in the flesh, in your face?

Meet 21 year old Clermond.


Clermond came to the clinic 3 weeks ago with what was thought to be an abscess. The first set of doctors to see him said they thought he had a sarcoma. The second set of doctors said it definitely wasn't cancer, just a cyst. The third doctor performed a biopsy - and the news came back yesterday.

Clermond indeed has cancer - a stage II osteosarcoma. Today I sat with him for an hour, told him the news, and told him that his only real option for treatment was an above-knee amputation. I was also the one to inform him that there was a hospital willing to do the surgery for him on Sunday. After a long conversation about what cancer is and what treatment looks like, we took a trip to see his father and told him the news.

How wretched for your only feasible option to be an amputation. Clermond said he would consent to the surgery but that his life as he knew it was over. I did my best to speak hope into his world. But in that instant I saw injustice in the flesh, in the tumor that protruded out from below his knee.

Later on that day I transferred a patient to a hospital in Port-au-Prince and got a call on my way back to the mission that there had been a baby abandoned at the clinic. The young mother had gotten news that her 2 year old baby boy likely had muscular dystrophy and would not make much of a recovery. She agreed to return with him on Monday, left him under a bench, and walked away. He became the responsibility of the government today. After trying to transfer him to three different hospitals in Port-au-Prince, the officials left him at the mayor's home tonight.

Injustice in the flesh: a boy in a country with no resources to help his teenage mother care for him. An environment that can be so unforgiving. Muscles that are not developed. A prognosis that is grim for a boy even well-nourished.

With no medical care at the mayor's home and a very malnourished, dehydrated, underdeveloped baby with a possible lung infection, several nurses and myself decided to try and get him back to the mission. With the approval of our Haitian director, I made my way to the mayor's house in the little ambulance and asked to take care of the baby's medical needs. Permission granted.

So, where do we go from here? When injustice is so in your face, what do you do?

As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,
who does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number:
he gives rain to the earth
and sends water to the fields;
he sets on high those who are lowly,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth
and from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts her mouth.

Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.
-From Job 5

As for tonight little Pierre sleeps on our living room floor on our mattress. I will accompany Clermond to and from the hospital this week. And I will join in the groanings of this world and wait in anticipation for the day when He makes all things new.

Until then, may God show us ways to shut the mouth of injustice.

Aug 28, 2010

cutting patterns

Why are you here? It's a question I get asked almost daily, and it's a question I ask myself all the time. The easy answer is how I physically got here: what were the steps that led me to this point in my life. But the more difficult answer has to do with WHY I chose to say yes.

I remember talking on the phone on a Saturday night, coming home after a long day out somewhere. I drove into Liberty from downtown Kansas City, sat down at my huge square table with my computer, and checked my e-mail. I remember the e-mail from Mission of Hope, asking if I would consider moving to Haiti. I remember reading it through and thinking to myself "No way. I could never do this."

I had just finished filling out my application to license as a nurse in the state of Colorado. I had just received recruiting e-mails from hospitals in Denver and Colorado Springs. I was Craigslisting cute apartments I would rent and live in on my own. I was planning backpacking trips and flights to Canada and moving away from Kansas City.

After all of that, after all of the pieces were falling together, there was no way I was supposed to go to Haiti.

It wasn't until my mom and dad began to point out the steps in my life that had led me to this point that I started to see. Since when has God been confined to our plans? Since when would I have been able to take myself to Kansas City or William Jewell? If I had followed what I would lay out as the right plan, I would probably be leading the most bland life.

But the question remained: what was I supposed to do? Was there a right or wrong? I came to the decision that there wasn't a right path. I could go to Colorado and live in an apartment and work as a nurse and build a new life in a new city with very few friends. Or I could go to Haiti and live in a community and work as a who-knows-what and build a new life in a country with very few friends. Was one right? Not in my mind.

I don't know what I think now. I certainly walked very definitively down one path and away from the other. I knew in my mind that it would change me and that there would be no way to go back. There would be no retries with this decision. There will only be other paths down the road, but there would be no changing the steps that I took, nor changing how they would alter me.

Why did I chose to come? I don't ever have a good answer to that question. I was told I was called here - otherwise I wouldn't be here. I don't know what I think about that either. And really, does it matter why I chose to come, or simply that I chose to come?

Am I glad I chose Haiti? I think so. Most days I know so. Today I am glad I decided to come to Haiti. Last week I wasn't so sure. I looked at one-way plane tickets to fly back to Colorado, as a matter of fact. Today I made a rough timeline for my time in Haiti through September of 2011. That is not a definitive, simply a thought.

Regardless of whether it was right or wrong or simply another branch in the tangled road I am walking, I have changed. I could never have known the amount of pain I was going to witness. I could never have imagined the sadness and anger and frustration. I could never have guessed the depth of beauty and joy I would experience.

I take pictures of my feet a lot. Today I took a lot of pictures of my feet. My feet show the dirt and blisters and tan line of Haiti. They would never look like this if I was standing on the side of the road in Denver. I'll never know what my feet would look like there. But I like the looks of my feet here. I guess that means I'll stand here a bit longer.

Aug 18, 2010

Tidbits

A more recent conversation with a short-term team member:

Team Member: Oh wow! So you are like a real live missionary?

Me: Um, well, I don't know. I guess?

Team Member: You know what really gets me going? When missionaries live in big houses with big screen TVs. [SIDE NOTE: that is very specific, lady] I mean, aren't there better things they can be spending their money on? I mean, I have a big screen TV, but I'm not a MISSIONARY.

Me: ....

You know what really gets me going lady-who-shall-remain-nameless? Your double standard. Your condemnation. Your big screen TV. If you really believe the Gospel and want to see it take hold of this world, I think your attitude needs to change, because right now you don't get it. Thanks for coming for the week. Go home now.

---

A look into my last "day off":

Drive to a tent city to drop off our two prosthetics patients = 1.5 hours

Drive to the airport to drop off a team member = 1 hour

Drive to Carrefour to drop off two of our orthopedic patients for ongoing care = 2 hours

Drive back to the Mission = 2 hours

As far as post-quake injuries, orthopedics is the name of the game. Want to know how many places are still doing orthopedic surgeries on a regular basis?

TWO.

Two places, one a tent hospital, have the capabilities to do orthopedic surgeries. Imagine the amount of people needing ongoing, follow up care. Imagine the amount of external fixation devices needing to be removed. Imagine the bone infections that are popping up now, requiring days of IV antibiotics.

Imagine dropping off your two patients, young girls with their whole lives ahead of them. Imagine seeing them look at you and ask when you will return to pick them up. Imagine their looks of sadness to realize that you are leaving them there, to find some way to get home the 3+ hours on a tap tap with a broken tibia. Imagine the frustration for being able to do so little to help.

---

A patient from last week:

20 year old from a local village has had a mass growing on his leg for over a year. He comes in to have it looked at. Some doctors call it cancer. The next doctors call it benign and cystic. He needs pathology to look at it. There is no pathology in country. I have another doctors appointment scheduled for him next week for a third opinion. If it is discovered he has cancer, the reality of treatment is grim. He would need to get to the States soon.

He calls me almost daily asking if I know what he can do yet. He asks me if I will go to his doctor's appointments with him. He is scared, and so am I.

---

A joy from last week:

Andre, an older man, ragged and smelling strongly of marijuana, comes to the clinic for a follow-up appointment. He gets his external fixation removed. He wears the same hat every day and has to remove it for surgery. As soon as he comes to after surgery, he asks me for his hat. I put it on and a complete look of satisfaction comes across his face.

Andre leaves and says he will come back tomorrow. The following day he shows up with a big bag of corn. He gives it to me as a thank you. He's got a grin missing most of his teeth, still smelling of marijuana, a salt and pepper long beard, and his conductor's hat on. Once again he asks me for money because he is hungry. I tell him to eat some corn, and he laughs. Then I give him a few dollars for a tap tap home and off he hobbles.

Between that and Haitian radio that plays Celine Dion and Colbie Caillat, you can't help but enjoy life here sometimes.

Jul 31, 2010

pain and beauty

This morning I made coffee for the first time this week. This is monumental. I have avoided our coffee pot in our apartment here because the last time I used it there was nearly a disaster.

I had just woken up and shuffled my way to the kitchen. Bleary eyed and hair in a very awkward messy bun, I grabbed the coffee pot to fill it with water. As I pulled, something was underneath the pot on the burner (which was off) and it flew with the pot.

It was...a COCKROACH.

I don't think I hate anything more than cockroaches. I am determined to get over my fear of them while I am here, but so far no luck.

Anyways, the cockroach flew into my sink and disappeared from there, making me not touch the counters in the apartment for about 4 days. When I finally decided the dishes were too many and too dirty and soon they would attract more cockroaches, I made my way to the sink.

There, in a coffee cup, was the cockroach. Drowned. Sucker.

But really, I guess it loved coffee.

So needless to say I scrubbed my coffee pot well this morning, and there is a delicious cup of coffee that I didn't have to wait a long time to enjoy alongside every team member here.

On Tuesday we had a car accident come in to the clinic. Our patients didn't come all at once like we usually see. Instead they came at least 30 minutes apart. We normally don't hear about big accidents until the patients start showing up. The story was: the driver of a tap-tap, for some unknown reason, ran over 12 people. 12 pedestrians hit, 2 died instantly, and the other 10 were being brought to hospitals around the area.

Our first patient was 13. She had two large open wounds on her thighs, and as I jumped into the truck to put her on a board, it was very obvious that she had broken both of her legs. They were pointed in very wrong directions, and her knees were facing out rather than straight on.

Our other two patients had head injuries and both had to be intubated. We have no ventilation systems which required us to bag them all the way to the next hospital. The hospital we took our head injury patients to was in Port-au-Prince and is well known for emergencies and critical care.

When I arrived with our last patient, they looked at me and said "We have no open vents". I continued to bag him while the checked him out in their two bed trauma area, then we wheeled him to the ICU. The four bed ICU, probably the size of your bedroom, stuffed with patients and nurses and doctors and oxygen tanks and supplies.

It isn't easy to do anything here. To go buy milk takes at least 3 hours of your time after you get a vehicle and a driver to take you. To take care of patients with head injuries is nearly impossible. And somedays I would rather just scream and refuse to deal with any of it, because it's too hard.

Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who remind me of why I am here. I have a great cloud of witnesses to point me away from my own works to grace. And then I get to share moments like these with them.


Haiti has REAL cappuccinos!


Haiti has practically perfect sunsets!


There is the ocean.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
Our God comes; he does not keep silence...
Psalm 50: 2-3

In this world there is pain and there is beauty. Thank goodness for the beauty, because it reminds me that this isn't the whole story and this isn't the end of the story.

Jul 17, 2010

ear to the earth

This week was surgery week. A team of 41 medical people that I worked with all week. Hundreds of patients seen in the clinic, wound and orthopedic consultation area, and ER. 54 surgeries completed. Several car and motorcycle accidents. Early morning and late night radio calls for blood expanders and extra hands. Meals ferried back and forth. Water, water, water, IVs, broken down cars and ATVs, ambulance runs, laughs, candy, hugs, tears, frustration.

This week was one of the most beautiful things I have ever taken part in.

I just waved goodbye to our medical team. Our 41 friends just left to go back to the States. Some of them have a look in their eyes that tells me something: change has occurred. In some way, everyone is leaving changed, more beautiful, emptied and filled.

I don't know how I will get off this couch. I could sit here all day to process. But our next team comes in this evening. We have 6 patients on our ward through the weekend. And we hurtle onwards.

Yet this week has torn me apart too. To be so endlessly served by this team, to watch them love and care and agonize alongside us with our patients, and then to leave, it tears me up. They have become a little family with me this week - and I am sad to see them go.

I am agonizing over the stories of some of our patients.

Crushed by buildings on January 12.

Ulcerations on legs for 8 years, desperately wanting to not have dressings done each day.

Beaten with sugar cane as a child slave.

Abused with battery acid that has disfigured her face.

Dear brothers and sisters, what a wretched world we are in. What a wretched world to be treated so poorly. What injustice. How much my heart aches. How much I desire to cry out for them, yet how beautiful this week to begin to see transformation. Perhaps we can help heal these scars, both physical and emotional. Perhaps we can learn how to walk alongside instead of walk away. Perhaps I can begin to pull myself away from my quiet world where I am safe and comfortable. Perhaps, just perhaps, God can redeem this wicked heart of mine.

May the Gospel grip me today and not let me go. Sweet Jesus, come quickly and sand away the exterior. Allow Truth to seep in and around. May the strength of Jesus manifest in us as we walk along.

Jul 10, 2010

a long road

This week we had a great medical team working with us. They were from all over the country, and half of them were students. Our week in the clinic was smooth and busy. Thursday was a quieter afternoon, so I offered that the medical students, the EMT, and our one visiting nurse could go out into the mountains with our ministry team going out. The ER doctor who is an anesthesiologist and myself stayed and closed up the clinic with our Haitian staff, then we joined the cardiologist and his kids at the guest house for the afternoon.

It was shortly after 5:00, and I had spent the previous hour alone, feeling rather confused about the state of my heart. I was feeling sad about something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was tired and ready for my day off on Saturday. I sat down next to Diana, our prosthetics lab coordinator, and some of the interns and chatted when a grey truck pulled up with some other visitors at the Mission in the back.

“Sarah, there’s been a terrible tap-tap accident in Source Matelas. At least 25 people.”

I’m not sure what else they yelled, but the two doctors quickly mobilized and jumped in the truck. I grabbed my radio and told Dr. Cheryl, who was in her house, and I ran to change out of my skirt into scrubs. The grey truck with the doctors, followed by me on my ATV with three of the interns, and Dr. Cheryl behind went to the clinic. We grabbed our mass trauma bins from the pharmacy extension, equipped to treat 30 trauma patients at once. Brianna used my phone to try and get a hold of Lindsay, our team coordinator who is a nurse, and the rest of our medical team. They were only 10 minutes away, praise the Lord.

The first tap-tap backed up to our clinic with about 6 patients just as the team pulled in. Lindsay and Kari, our two other nurses in addition to me, jumped out with our EMT, medical students, and other team members. Dr. Cheryl began to triage with the doctors, and I started to ask people for additional supplies. We had an incredible team assembled.

Somewhere in the process Brad, Mission of Hope’s director and president, drove our small ambulance to the scene to pick up patients. He returned and called us over, saying he had some severely injured people.

When we opened the back door I walked up to the first patient I saw and realized his feet were at odd angles. As I got right next to them I realized that they were barely hanging on by some skin and tissue. I could see all of the bones of his feet, and his flesh around the bones looked to be ground. I held on to his feet as we moved him out of ambulance, and they took him over to be triaged. I then realized that we had no morphine out, and we were going to need it. One of the medical students ran and got it for me, and I started to teach people how to draw up morphine. I did a few vital signs, during that time the man with the feet was transferred out to General Hospital. The head orthopedic surgeon that I called and Diana spoke with told us to send him the worst cases, so we immediately sent our first patient in the little ambulance.

Soon after that we needed to transfer three more in our big ambulance. Cheryl wanted to send a nurse along. Knowing we needed Kari on site as she was the most experienced and Lindsay was working with Cheryl on triaging, I found myself climbing in with three patients, a medical student, and our Haitian ambulance driver Jocelyn.

We rushed to General Hospital with a man with a femur fracture and intense chest pain and shortness of breath and a man with a potential cervical spine injury. The ride was so bumpy that I squatted between the two patients to try and make sure they didn’t get thrown anywhere. I prayed out loud and I prayed in my head. I knew if one of them started to take a turn for the worse I would be ill-equipped to help them. When we made it to General Hospital I was so relieved to get our patients into more capable hands.

General Hospital is the main Haitian hospital in Port-au-Prince, what would be the county hospital in a city. It is Truman Medical Center to Kansas City. Jocelyn and I wheeled in our femur fracture and chest pain patient, and it wasn’t long before I saw the trail of blood. We followed it into the center of the ER, where I found the man with his feet dangling, surrounded by doctors who seemed to just stare at him. I was greeted by a Brazilian UN member who quickly realized I was trying to bring in THREE patients, and he left. I met a first year general surgery resident who began to explain to me that they could not accept not only our three, but also the man with the feet and another man brought in by a different clinic from the same accident. I was suddenly being handed 5 patients, 4 of whom were critical, and told I had to deal with them.

Thank goodness for Jocelyn. He was by my side the entire time. He did not push me, but he took everything in and would advise me along the way. He informed me that General Hospital has TWO ambulances, and if they refused to accept our patients, they would have the capability to transfer them. The doctors told me it was too difficult to find ambulance drivers at this time of night, and they did not call. Short of dialing the number for them, I hounded them until they did call. Within 10 minutes, the two ambulances arrived with drivers. We agreed those two ambulances would transfer the 4 critical patients and General would keep our other one. It took another 30 to 40 minutes to get the patients in the ambulances. We followed them off, knowing we had 7 more patients to transfer that night.

Our next two transfers were to Carrefour, on the other side of Port-au-Prince, the epicenter of the earthquake. Those transfers were much smoother and less time-consuming, but we made it back to the mission after our final transfer at 3:30 in the morning. The next day I found out the man with the feet died between transfers to a third hospital after a second refused him. He was our only patient that we know of who died, though we only got 14 of the 30+ people involved.

The MAIN hospital in Port-au-Prince has had nearly all aid groups pull out. They have no sterile OR. They have NO sterile operating room at the MAIN Haitian hospital in Port-au-Prince after having suffered arguably the worst natural disaster. They did not have enough staff or beds. The tent and field hospitals are downsizing or closing altogether. But the need has not passed. The work is still here, and the workers are leaving.

At some point in the evening I looked around and realized that more people had come, and they were familiar faces. The interpreters for our groups, both medical and non-medical, had heard that there was an accident and came immediately. The same was to be said for some of our drivers. Everyone knew what a mass trauma accident meant, and they came. I cannot begin to tell you what that moment of clarity gave me. Following our first transfer I had some time to sit and breath in and out, and it dawned on me that the people I had come to serve already serve each other so endlessly. And they serve me and Mission of Hope endlessly. What I have taken away from them last night reaches far beyond what I could ever do in my entire time in Haiti.

The need is so great; it is dire. May we all find ways to fill and pour into the needs around us. May I wrestle with how that looks in my own life.

Jul 3, 2010

restacking

It's nighttime in Haiti. I am sitting on the concrete outside my front door and listening to the hum of the generator down the hill, the quiet voices from the group on the opposite side of the wall, and Bon Iver.

I have no pressing news to report. I am here, and I am living life each day, and I am trying to piece together the blocks of a new little life. Diana Cherry chopped off a good chunk of my hair today. I have spent more time in the last two days laughing and smiling and listening than I have feeling lonely and afraid. God has been pressing on me the importance of silence and solitude. I am trying very hard to seek that out in this time, to listen carefully for His voice.

Thanks for the thoughts, notes, and love over the past two and a half weeks.

Jun 18, 2010

Day 3.1

It is difficult to begin to put into words how I am feeling at the moment. I feel so richly blessed to be here in this moment. I feel that the Lord has ordained these days, for this purpose.

At Mission of Hope I am surrounded by individuals who work to their core to bring the Hope of Jesus to a nation. They do so in such real, tangible ways, investing in the communities and in the lives of the people within those communities. The staff here are incredibly talented in their own roles. What an excellent group to work with, to learn from, and to serve alongside.

Yet it creates such an interesting dilemma: how to place oneself. How to decipher exactly what it is that God has brought you here to do. And no, it isn’t all about doing. Our lives are never meant to be deeds-driven. It’s not enough to simply do good.

Where does your heart stand? What exactly are YOU here for? Why did you get on that plane? Why did you leave a perfectly beautiful life? And how much of that gets in the way of what God really brought you here for?

So – why did I come? I couldn’t quite say. I am nearly positive that it isn’t 100% selfless. Some of me selfishly needed to be here. Some of me feels the pull to DO, to mask my pride and brokenness with actions. Because to everyone outside it paints a pretty picture.

Tonight is the night I begin to examine that. To do the hard work of exposing the rot. To sit in a dark room and apologize for the ways in which I have sought to put myself on a pedestal.

With each step we take, God has established a purpose. Perhaps a portion of that purpose is to begin to understand why we are going where we are going. Or perhaps it is simply to sit back and realize that every form of control we seek will only lead to ruin. May we have eyes to see.

Jun 16, 2010

good morning world

Current location: Miami International Airport

Current time: 5:50 AM (now 6:50 AM)

Current situation: Sitting in the basement(?!), drinking my final coffee, eating my final scone

My flights have been relatively uneventful, minus the 30 minute delay once they closed the door in LAX. Sleeping on very crowded planes while Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel plays in the background is very difficult. About an hour or so into the flight they finally turned the lights off, and I would sleep for 10 minutes here and there, with two stretches of 30-40 minutes. Needless to say, my neck hurts, my face looks like death, and I opted for the large size of coffee in said airport basement.

There is an 8 AM flight to Port-au-Prince that I could have been on, but for some reason unknown to me at this time, I opted for the later flight. What was I thinking??? Ah well, it’s only an extra…hour and 40 minutes.

BUT that gives me time to blog!

It is hard to believe that I will be there in a few short hours, si Bondye vle. I walked past the gate for the 8:00 flight and heard my first few words of Creole that were not rolling around in my head only. I need to start kicking my brain in gear and see if I can navigate my way back to the minimal conversationalist I was in August.

I wish I could call people but it is an unspeakable hour in Kansas City, Colorado, and Washington, as well as other places, so I will just sit in the basement.

I do love the flight to Haiti. The water is so blue, and it is an entirely different world once you step on the plane. THEY GIVE YOU FREE TOBLERONE. And cheese and crackers and raisins and something else. I will probably ask for a cup of coffee too.

My first success of this trip was the weight of my bags. My HUGE bag weighed in at 49.5 pounds. BOOYAH.

I am wondering who will pick me up at the airport. I hope I know them.

I am ALSO wondering how on earth I will make it to the mission if they forget I am coming. I think I would pay someone who works at the airport to let me use their cell phone to call…gosh I don’t even know. I don’t have anyone’s numbers there! Diana, if you are reading this, DON’T LET THEM FORGET TO PICK ME UP!

Unfortunately for me, they no longer have mailboxes in airports because of 9/11. Now, I get that completely, but PEOPLE, I have so much mail I am carting around in my backpack that I now have to take to Haiti to pawn off on groups and staff leaving the country to put in a mailbox for me.

Perhaps one of you blog readers can answer me this: will the Gulf oil spill come to Haiti? Because really, don’t you think earthquakes and the promise of an intense hurricane season is enough? I think so.

Ok: here is the plan of action. I will go and change into my “going-to-Haiti” outfit, put on a pound of makeup, and re-straighten my hair.

Just kidding, but seriously, I have an outfit.

So. I will change into my outfit and brush my teeth (AH!) and then go to my gate, pay for wireless internet, charge all my electronics, keep writing mail, listen to my trashy pop music, and keep sipping on this coffee.

See you on the other side!

Jun 12, 2010

time to sing a new song

My blog silence can be attributed to much. I intend to blog more in depth about a lot of the past and future events, but in the meantime...

My computer finally bit the dust (a little bit), hence no computer equals no spur-of-the-moment, emotional posts. But hopefully it will be back in hand Monday, and you will once again be subject to my tidbits.

Also, it would be nice to have in hand before moving on Tuesday.

Speaking of which, my phone will be gone on Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning. Just in case you were DYING to talk to me on the phone.

I have found in these last few days I have been content to sit in quiet, to withdraw more and more into my room and into myself. I'm not sure if that's the beginning of the grieving process or an ineffective manifestation of coping.

Don't get me wrong, the thought of waking up at dawn over the mountains in Haiti, to view the bluest water, to drink a cup of strong coffee and walk a bit down the hill to take in the day's first breath, to giving hugs to dear friends and hold hands of the dearest children, to Fruit Champagne and fried plantains, to clinic life and handing packs of gum to Dr. Jenifer, to fighting my way through Creole tucked FAR away in my brain, it all brings a sort of life into my heart.

Yet the final days and moments here will continue to feel a sense of darkness and heaviness. Goodbye to close drives to family, Colorado mountains and weather, and the sort of freedom I have here.

More to come soon!

May 27, 2010

clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

Life is full. I feel as if the past few days have been bursting with activities that have filled me with an enormous amount of joy. I have met many new people, laughed a lot, ate well, slept little, enjoyed beautiful Colorado (which will always feel like home), eaten my weight in chips and dip, connected, and spent hours watching Friday Night Lights.

Life is seeming to hurtle onwards. When it seemed as if June 15th was ages away, it is coming quickly now. I am at the 3 week mark, and those 3 weeks will be just as full as the last few days. And when I look at my parents and my sisters and my particular Denver buddy, it starts to become very clear that June 15th will most definitely break me.

I find that I am trying to rationalize and plan a lot. I'm trying to define my coming year, and to come up with the options at the end of it. It's as if I am writing my own life as a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. And maybe life will be just like that. Or maybe there will be no choice, and there will only be clarity as to the only path I go down.

"Sarah, are you excited to leave?"

It's a question I get almost daily. My answer has changed a lot in the last few weeks. Yes, of course, absolutely, maybe, I'm not thinking about it, Hell no, what kind of question is that?

But if it weren't complex, then life wouldn't be full. If the answer isn't clear cut, then that sheds some perspective onto my current situation. I am happy, I have a full heart. My heart will be equally filled and emptied simultaneously. I am not longer viewing the coming year in such romanticized terms. Let us not forget what it means to leave.

But if it wasn't hard, if it wasn't painful, then would it be worth it? Isn't it better to live a full, heart-breaking life rather than an empty, protected one? We must love boldly. We must be brave and leave. We must be brave and stay. We must ask the Lord to make us uncomfortable in order to break us down and point us to what matters.

People are what matters. To those on either end, thank you for loving me unconditionally and pointing me to something greater than myself, which has manifested itself in the person of Jesus.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

May 22, 2010

baby steps

When I was in 8th grade, I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I'm not sure what did it. It was, perhaps, the conversation with my locker partner during a sleep over in which we were talking about what we never wanted to do with our lives.

My response: a nurse.

The voice in my head: too bad, you will be.

I don't know if you can call that the voice of God or the early manifestations of my stubborn attitude. Either way, 8 years later, I got the news. I got pinned, I graduated, I took my boards, and, this just in, I PASSED! Yesterday the man at REI asked me what I did. I said "I'm a nurse! Sort of."

No Sarah, you are a nurse. The state of Kansas and the NCSBN say so.

Anyways, I had a lot of excitement going into nursing school. I wanted to be a pediatric oncology nurse. Maybe labor and delivery. Maybe, if I was REALLY interested, an ER nurse.

I finished my first clinical with relief. I hated it. I hated clinicals with a fiery passion. It was nerve-wracking, and I always came out feeling very aware of how little I knew. It was sort of hopeless at times. After that year, I was a little lost, so I moved away from Kansas City to Washington for the summer. I came back reluctantly and started into what is known to be the hardest semester of nursing school.

On my second week of clinical in Adult Health, on the telemetry floor, my clinical instructor came and sat next to me. Our conversation went something like this:

"Sarah, I'm disappointed in your performance. I know you are capable of more than this. You could be a great nurse, and you aren't doing anything to challenge yourself. Do you even want to be here?"

"No. I don't. I hate nursing school. I don't really like clinicals."

"Well, you better find some motivation or get out of the program. Because with that attitude, you won't make it through. Figure it out."

A kick in the pants. A kick in the stomach. And it made me so angry that I set out to show him I could hate nursing school and make it through. Each week my paper work got better, he was more encouraging, and I walked out of that clinical a little smarter.

When I finished junior year and went to Haiti, I wasn't prepared for what was to come. But it was in those weeks that the transformation began, and it was in this place that the motivation took hold.

The clinic at MOH and the staff began to instill in me the motivation to continue through school.
The opportunity to change these dressings, a daily dressing change for this dear friend, gave me to motivation to be better.

A week ago, I was pinned. As we walked across the stage to be pinned and prayed over, the man who once told me to find some motivation or get out of the program read my thank you. My final thank you went to the young man whose legs are pictured above - because without him and without the clinic, I would not have finished.

And now, with the incredible gift of my education, I hope I can begin to use it in the ways in which the Lord would have me. May He establish the work of our hands.

May 19, 2010

Whew.

I began my journey in nursing school fearful. I walked into my first day of clinical terrified, but the night before I read a passage that stuck with me when I was afraid, in all things little and large. I said it before clinicals, I said it before tests, I said it before I got off the plane in Haiti. And tonight I speak and pray it again: prepared to use it tomorrow as ammunition against the one who comes to discourage and destroy.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have anxious heart,
"Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with a vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you."
- Isaiah 35:3-4

The Lord has made everything for its purpose.

May 17, 2010

qualms and calms

The marathon is coming into the final lap.

I finished finals on Wednesday morning. I spent the next few days saying goodbyes. Thursday evening my family arrived, Friday was packing day, and Friday night was Nursing Pinning.

Saturday I woke up after a fitful night of a few hours of sleep to a pounding head, a sore throat, and sinuses that decided to drip constantly. But on with the cap and gown, into the rainy morning, Baccalaureate, Walk around the Quad, and Graduation. Got the fake diploma, ate some pizza with friends and family, packed the cars, and bought some Afrin to clear out my sinuses so I could breath and sleep.

Sunday morning comes, and it was time to say goodbye to the family. Time to say goodbye to the nephews. Time to say goodbye to Redeemer. Time to say goodbye to Kansas City, and to the home of seven years.

I got hit by a deer just over the Colorado border. Welcome home Sarah!

We unloaded the car, I fell into bed, and the doctor gave me some steroids to decrease the inflammation in my throat, ears, sinuses, nose, and lungs this morning. Booyah!

And now...to studying! Study, test, review, test again. Move on and repeat. It's almost over.

In the meantime I will cling to this photo, perfectly encapsulating the joy that I felt at the end of this weekend.

It was hard to leave Kansas City, and it was so good to come home. It was hard to say goodbye to Micah and Tyler and Jeremy and Ashley, the remainder of the Kansas City Parsons, and it was so good to walk into the house to be greeted by my dad and sister. It is so hard to know that the last step has finished, yet the anticipation of the next step is beginning to build, quietly and surely. But in this moment, in these moments, I hope I will continue to stop and thank the Lord for his mercy, for His kindness in lavishing such a loving community around me. For granting me a supportive family, ever-present friends, and a future that does not scare me.

May we continue on.

May 1, 2010

On August 27 I said goodbye to Haiti. This was my last view of the most beloved place that morning.
I remember the rise of pain in my chest as I sat on the electrical box with some of the security guards and interpreters, watching the truck come to pick me up. I remember the relief when it was Billy and Costa in the truck, as they would be the perfect people to escort me into the city. I remember looking at the team, laughing away at their breakfast table. It just didn't seem right. They just didn't get it. How could they not look at this sunrise and have their heart break? And why weren't they broken? Why was I the only one who seemed to feel such an incredible weight of despair?

I left pained, but not so much with leaving as with returning. I carried home a heaviness that will never go away completely. I carried home a broken heart. And the Lord, in His way, rebuilt me. He put me back together, scarred but stronger.

It wasn't so much about poverty. Poverty definitely was the catalyst, but it wasn't the reason I returned ripped apart. It was because my world was shattered, and everything that made sense about my life didn't really fit anymore. It was because who I was before looked different from the person returning. And the Lord wasn't going to let me go back to that life - because who I was on the other side was more of who He wanted to see.

Today I began to anticipate my return. I feel like the Lord has been so good in reminding me to "be here" while I am here, and be there when I get there. But for a few minutes today I remembered the smell and the feeling of falling asleep in the hot air and the refreshment of waking up with the sun cresting those mountains, once again reminded of how this life I live has nothing to do with me.

He makes, and is making, all things new.

Apr 25, 2010

page 249

"I don't think we can really understand how time passes. We can't study it like a river or time it with a clock. Our devices only mark its coming and going. I dropped an anchor three months back but time didn't slow. Some things have to end, you know. You feel like life is always leading up to something, but it isn't. I mean life is just life. It's all happening right now, and we aren't going to be any more complete a month from now than we are now. I only say this because I am trying to appreciate everything tonight. I will be leaving soon, and I want to feel this, really understand that it is happening because God breathed some spark into some mud that became us, and He did it for a reason, and I want to feel that reason, not some false explanation."
- Donald Miller Through Painted Deserts

I'll be missing dear memories and dearer faces.
Praise the Lord for such a great cloud of witnesses.

Apr 19, 2010

ants marching

I live in a quaint little red brick house in a quaint little town on a quiet little street. Sounds nice right?

It is. Truly, I am thankful for this house, and I will miss my little home come May 17. There's a little problem though.

The ants.

They are massive, shiny ants with bodies that crunch when they are smashed. I don't mind them so much seeing as how cockroaches and tarantulas will be more the norm in my life. Yet...they are everywhere. It grosses me out.

Anyhow - the ants march, like DMB sings, and time marches on as well. I just came out of my critical care final. I answered 105 questions in under an hour which makes me nervous - but I either knew the answer or I didn't. I didn't sit and deliberate because the answers I chose made sense to me. We'll see how good that sense is in a few hours.

I continue to wait for my ATT to show up - it's my approval from the NLCEX board to take my boards. Time marches on.

I bought my ticket to go to Haiti. One way on a red eye from LAX to Miami. Sounds romantic right? I think it's just the way to start out a year overseas - flying a red eye. It seems right to fly while everyone sleeps.

Goodbyes are my norm these days. And Kevin was so timely to remind me of Psalm 90:14,17 yesterday:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days...
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands.

He has established each of our steps, and the days in Haiti are no different. So may He be my sustainer, and may we rejoice when we receive his steadfast love.

Apr 16, 2010

say goodbye, say hello

This week I walked closely with death again, and I saw another facet.

This week it was something else: painful, yet beautiful. I watched as a man was surrounded by many of his nearest and dearest, lying with the breeze coming through the window and hymns sung around him. And with his wife and daughter and son-in-law at his side just a bit later, he was gone.

But he was a man who proclaimed and lived out the Hope of the Gospel. There is a better end to his story. So in the midst of the sadness there is also a celebration.

We said goodbye to a giant in the face of cancer this week. He inspired and encouraged us all to live our lives in the best way possible.

We will miss him. Yet he was went out in joy and was led forth in peace.

Apr 8, 2010

April 7, 2010

Nothing about yesterday seemed to be real. It didn't seem to be right.

I had a patient, a very young patient, who made a choice. A choice to have a baby. She went against medical advice, got pregnant, had her baby, and nine months later I stood in her room.

The pictures of her three beautiful, perfect daughters hung on the wall. There was a slideshow running on the computer in the room, pictures of family vacations and dinners and birthday parties. She was an absolutely stunning woman. And yet, she looked nothing like those pictures now.

She laid paralyzed to decrease her body's need for oxygen. Her lungs had failed her, her heart was nearly failed, her kidneys had failed her, her liver was beginning to fail her. Her mother and husband sat in the room, grieving the loss they knew would come. I don't know if they knew it would come so soon. I didn't know if it would, but I had a feeling.

Her heart rate started to drop, her blood pressure bottomed out, and suddenly I was pushed against the wall...watching as if I wasn't really there, but more just dreaming it.

I watched 13 other people pour into the room. The nurses ran in and out, grabbing supplies, while the doctors watched silently. They would quietly say out another drug to push, another method to try, but then the resident on the case walked over to the mother and husband and simply hugged them as they began to sob.

The room was relatively quiet - just the sound of the Ambu-bag breathing for the patient in the hands of the respiratory therapist and the alarms dinging in the background alerting everyone that something wasn't right in that room.

For education purposes I should have paid attention to see what epinephrine and atropine did to the patient's heart rate, or how well her tissues were oxygenating. But I watched instead the slideshow - still running. Three little girls who were losing their mother. And I looked outside the door to see every medical and pharmacy student peering through to see what was happening. All I wanted to do was to walk out and cry. Perhaps one of those students should have been in the room in my place.

I watched a husband lose his wife and a mother lose her daughter. I saw grief overtake one and anger the other. I saw every nurse on the floor shed a tear for this family. And those pictures rotated on and on.

The world isn't supposed to be this way. It was never meant to be this way. I think that God's fury boiled over yesterday, indignant at the suffering of His children. I think His anger is stewing against sinfulness.

I sat outside the room with the nurse, listening to her talk through her grief. Then the husband came out, and she gave him a hug. Then he looked at me and said "Can I hug you too? You were with her today."

So I hugged him and could only whisper "I'm so sorry."

I could write about our Hope. But this family doesn't share in that Hope. So instead I just feel a heaviness.

The world was never meant to be this way.

Mar 30, 2010

hard times

There are so many things in this world that make my blood boil.

I know, what a statement to make after the joy of yesterday's blog.

I have a good reason for the switch.

The story: at least 321 people massacred in the D.R. of the Congo by the LRA, the rebel army that has been terrorizing the people of Uganda for decades. The rebel army that is the source of the longest running war in Africa. The rebel army that, like so many others, has operated with freedom, that has ties to the problems in Sudan. The rebel army that has seeped out of Uganda into the Congo, Chad, Sudan, and Kenya.

Add the LRA to the existing conflicts in the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, and on and on.

What is more frustrating? It took until March 28th for the majority of the world to acknowledge it happened.

What is the most popular story on the BBC website currently?


There are bombs in Moscow, people dying by mutilation at the hands of brainwashed child soldiers, ongoing wars in the Middle East.

I was in a church service over Christmas break, and the pastor asked "What injustice in the world makes your blood boil?"

Can you think of one?



By the way, that's something like diarrhea. That's something preventable by the water running out of our taps, out of our shower heads, and out of our garden hoses.

I have to be careful when my passion and fury towards injustice takes over. I sometimes lose sight of what is the heart of the matter when I get so overwhelmed with problems.

My heart breaks for people in the third world. God has turned my heart, he has broken me for the injustices toward the poor. And in my summer in Haiti last year I was reminded every day of how little I could do.

I could not take in every orphan I saw on the streets.
I could not give clean water to every person who didn't have any.
I could not provide proper nutrition to every hungry person I saw.
I could not put in jail the men who raped the little girls I saw on a daily basis.

I could not do much, in a nation of 9 million. A nation that is a dot on the globe.

So, Mr. Pastor, that's what makes my blood boil. That the injustice and the need of the world is so massive that I can do little to change it. I am angry that it exists at all.

He followed his initial question with this statement:

DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

So - what makes your blood boil? And what are you going to do about it? I would love to hear, because people who live out their passion, who follow what the Lord has broken their hearts over, those people are the ones who remind me of Hope, who point me back to the Lord, and remind me that we serve a Lord who is angry too, and who is coming to change things.

But it isn't enough to wait for Him to fix this shit around us.

Let's do something about it.

Do something like this.
Do something like this.
Do something like this.

What am I doing? I'm moving to Haiti for a year, and I am praying that the Lord shows me what to do next. I am praying that as I go, as I help doctors and nurses take care of the sick people we meet, that I will learn something about meeting physical needs of people. And that that will begin to build bridges to allow spiritual needs to be met.

I have no idea what I am doing here. I have no idea how to be brave enough to be like Isabella and Katie and Mike and Beth Fox. But I hope that I will never stop to be driven and passionate like they are at fighting against the darkness in this world.

And I am thankful that every step along the way reminds me I am broken, I am not enough, and I am provoked and led by a God who never abandons and continually sustains, who asks His people to fight the darkness too.

What will you do? What shall I do?

Mar 29, 2010

Siblings

I return!

You guys, this weekend was wild. It was my last days of work EVER. I mean, I am currently unemployed until I move to Haiti in June. I am not sure that is even employment. It certainly is hard work, but would anyone look at that and say I have a job? A career? I guess we'll see. When I tell people who don't know me that I am going they either:

A) Look at me like I am crazy.
B) Look at me like I am crazy and smile encouragingly. I like these people.

I went to Colorado over spring break. It was fun. I got to spend my first night there with my sisters.

SIDE NOTE. HAVE YOU MET MY SISTERS???

I know! They are adorable.

Also. They are hilarious. I don't think anyone has the ability to make me laugh as much as my sisters, my brother, and brother-wife Ashley.

For instance: Annie. Annie is dynamic. She has some of the best hair days around. She karaokes with the best of them. She runs half marathons with ease in mile-high elevations. She pushes herself to do things she doesn't think she can, then she excels. Her writing is witty and this is just an example that has me laughing out loud, literally. LOL, L.

For instance again: Becca. If you see Becca she is most likely:
A) With a dog. Typically Gabe/GREEBS. The Zac Efron of the dog world.
B) Hip and trendy with rocking hair, tights, leg warmers, boots, and a dress. I know. Adorable.
C) Making jokes.
Becca is a magnetic personality with a lot of sarcasm and wit on the side. People automatically like Becca. She's also unaware of her charm, which makes her more charming. She's artistic and creative. She wants to take in all the stray puppies, and puppies love her. It's such a precious sight.

Couple these two with THESE TWO, and I have the funniest siblings in the world, hands down. Not to mention the most talented.

I am going to miss family time come June.

Mar 17, 2010

Profile Picture Pride

When you go to another country on a mission trip, you inevitably put a picture of you and one of the kids you met as your profile picture. Come on now people, you've done it, haven't you? I have!

Part of it is probably the fact that you liked the kid. He or she was cute, and maybe spoke a different language in the most adorable little kid voice. You couldn't help but cuddle them and fall in love.

Another part of it is because it's trendy. It's hip. It's cool to put your picture up with an orphan from another country. I mean, look at me! I went to Haiti and cuddled this adorable child. Go look at the rest of my pictures. I am so cool, right?

Am I just cynical, or am I right? A little bit right?

I'm right in my own circumstance. I mean, I want you to look at this picture of me and Roberto and think "That's adorable. How cool. I wonder what her other pictures are like."

That's icky isn't it?

Not the picture, because Roberto reminds me of this kid. I mean, what isn't adorable about that?

But it's icky because it's another example of how we seek approval and applause through our actions. We live in a works-based world. You are successful if you make more money, go to college, have the dream job, own your own home, have the pool in the back and the Escalade out front.

Or even if your successful world doesn't hold a pool or an Escalade (two things I could do without, seeing as how I hate swimming and Escalades), success comes through the envy and approval of others.

And I don't know anyone who would say cuddling cute orphans isn't good or worthy of applause.

Just another way my pride jumped out at me today. It makes me feel slimy and no good.